December 25 – Christmas: The Promise Fulfilled – God’s Triumph Through Christmas

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Christmas: The Promise Fulfilled

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Read Luke 2:6-15, Matthew 2:1-12, Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7 and 1 Peter 1:19-20 God’s Triumph Through Christmas! When we celebrate Christmas there is a sense of wonder we should have in how God fulfilled the Promise of Jesus Christ. First we remember the prophecies He revealed through the Prophets of Old. Then there was all that the angel spoke to Mary and Joseph. Now we come to see everything that God said would be has come true. What we celebrate is really to us the culmination of the truth of God’s word. That God would send His one and only Son into humanity in the human form of a baby! Everything that God promised and foretold would happen have come true! Praise God that it is so! We first see the reality of it all in the town of Bethlehem. In the very town that the prophets foretold- Mary gave birth to the Son of God and named Him Jesus. (Just as the Angel told her to.) He was really born in a manger because due to the census they all traveled to Bethlehem to partake in; there was no room for them in the inn. God still provided for their needs still keeping with the fulfillment of the promise. Next we see real witnesses of the actual time and places surrounding the Messiah’s birth. Besides Mary and Joseph themselves, God sent the angel once again to announce the birth of Christ. He came to the Sheppard’s telling them that a Savior was born for them who is Christ the Lord. He gave them a sign telling them where the Messiah would be and what He would be dressed in. After the angel left, they left their sheep and went straight to the very place where the angel told them He’d be. They witnessed the Christ child, Mary and Joseph. They left there worshiping and praising God because what they saw confirmed what the angel had told them. Can you imagine being a part of what they experienced? What a humbling experience it would have been! The next witnesses were brought to the Christ child sometime after His birth. A star led them to the Christ Child. God used this star up in the heavens to lead the magi to Christ where they worshiped Him and gave Him gifts. Then on top of this, God protected Jesus, Mary, and Joseph from Herod’s jealousy, envy and wrath as He sent the angel once again to Joseph in a dream, warning him of Herod’s plan telling him to flee from there and go to Egypt. Here again God provided in His infinite wisdom a plan to protect His Son until the appointed time some thirty plus years later when He would die for all mankind’s sin. Joseph was obedient again and left in the night to Egypt where they would await the angel’s word, which would confirm that it was safe to return. It seems that God also provided protection to the magi, as I believe He gave them the wisdom to go home by a different route. A route by which they’d find safe passage home that would avoid contact with Herod and his pending wrath, as he aimed to kill the Christ Child. All of God’s promises came to reality, with physical and written proof. God is faithful and we can celebrate the triumph of Christmas through our Savior’s birth! My prayer for all of us is that the reality of all that God spoke, wrote, planned, and fulfilled, will keep us in awe of His power and majesty. Each year, may our Christmas become more worshipful and thankful as we celebrate the Birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ- the Fulfillment of God’s Promise! What God promises, you can always trust will take place down to the very last detail! God keeps His promises! Questions To Get Started With:
  • How do the scriptures confirm all that God promised which is why we celebrate Christmas at all?
  • How does the knowledge of God’s fulfilled promises impact your Christmas celebration?
  • If you don’t know Him, then don’t you think it’s time that you receive His free gift – especially during Christmas! The best gift of all is Jesus!
  • Maybe you do know Him but have taken a step away from your faith and relationship with Him? Don’t you think it’s time to recommit yourself to Him and truly celebrate Christ’s birth?

December 24 – Christmas: The Promise Fulfilled – An Announcement from Heaven

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Christmas: The Promise Fulfilled

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Read Luke 1:26-38, Matthew 1:18-25, Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7 and Micah 5:2 An Announcement From Heaven That Solves A Serious Dilemma.  We’re once again reminded of a story that we’ve heard many times. An angel, sent by God, comes to Mary to make an announcement that would change her life (and the world’s) forever! She was a virgin betrothed to marry a righteous man named Joseph. She was troubled by what the angel Gabriel told her. She had a lot of questions I’m sure. The angel comforted and reassured her to not be afraid then laid out everything for her, even what she should name the child. Once she was put at ease she stated, “Let it be done according to your word.”  What a powerful and Faith Filled statement she made. I wonder if she knew how incredible her statement was and if she was familiar or not with the prophecy she would play a part in fulfilling? Here again we witness God’s Word in action. Real people fulfilling what God really said and recorded for us in the scriptures! Everything is fulfilled according to God’s Word. Miraculously, Mary would remain a Virgin until after the baby was born. She also would have most likely faced some ridicule in the process because she was pregnant before she and Joseph were married. She persevered and treasured all the angel revealed to her. Even if she didn’t understand all the implications of having this child meant, she showed great faith and courage, as she was willing to do what God wanted her to do. In comes Joseph, He was the one betrothed to Mary.  He has a dilemma on his hands because he finds out that she’s pregnant with who know whose child. “What should I do? He asks himself.” Should I put her away (divorce her), because by this time they were joined together according to scripture? He was rightly troubled because he desired to do what was pleasing to God. He showed that he was very honorable because he did not want to ruin Mary’s reputation either. He had a real dilemma on his hands. But, here again, God sends an angel to intervene and set things in place so the promise of God may be fulfilled through the birth of the Christ Child. In a dream, the Angel makes everything clear to Joseph as he explains what the situation with Mary was. The angel explained what the prophecy said and that Mary was the one who would bear the Messiah conceived by the Holy Spirit. He went on to tell him that it was OK for him to take Mary as his wife. Joseph awakens and goes to take Mary as his wife as the angel of the Lord commanded. God sent the angel to talk with Mary and Joseph, announcing The Promised One from God was coming and whether they fully understood it or not, God would be using them to fulfill the prophecy and to bring His one and only Son into the world. This is an amazing thing God chose to do for mankind! The stage was now set for the entrance of the King of Kings as promised by God. It’s truly incredible how God works out all of the details, isn’t it?! God continues to show Himself faithful to reveal and fulfill the promises in His Son. The Messiah would be born of the Virgin Mary according to His Word! Questions To Get Started With:
  • What kind of faith was evident in Mary and Joseph?
  • How would you describe their faith by their actions?
  • What do you think was going on inside them as the Angel came to them with this news?
  • Do you think they completely understood what the announcement from the angel meant?
  • What do you think you would have done if you were in their shoes?
  • What do these announcements tell you about God’s Fulfilled Promise?

December 5 – Open Letters – Solitude – Part 1

Read Luke 5: 15,16

Dear Solitude,

I like you and I don’t. You are good and you are evil. Like a coin with two sides.

Heads! Solitude, on one side, you are good:

 “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

In this passage I read that Christ often spent time alone, apart from everyone, including His disciples. Away from the clamor, the questions, and the attention; no distractions like the sound of a cell phone buzzing with text messages or email notifications.  Oh, there might have been the sound of a bird singing or a donkey in the distance.  But, for the most part, just silence. And in that wonderful side of you, Solitude, I imagine there were no voices, aside from the conversation in His head with His dad.

Was Jesus just tired of being around people?  No.

I’m reminded, Solitude, of John 13:18b – “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” Christ doesn’t just LIKE us. He doesn’t read our Facebook status, hit the “like” button, and move on.  He loves us deeply. And He stays by our side because it is where He wants to be. Unlike two small siblings strapped into car seats and forced to ride together in the back seat of a car on an eternally long road trip, our Savior will never leave us nor forsake us – not because He is stuck with us, but because He thoroughly desires to be next to us for the entire ride.

Did Jesus grow weary of healing the multitude of folks whose bodies and spirits were broken? No, again.

God’s only Son, in whom all power and authority had been placed (Ephesians 1:20-23), allowed Himself to be confined within the physical limitations of a human body. Surely, there were times when He became “bone weary.”  Yet, Jesus understood well His mission and the power He had been given to complete it. That same incredible power made available to us. (Ephesians 1:19-21)

Your “Heads” side, Solitude? Solitude with God can be empowering, comforting, soothing.

I’ll have more to say to you tomorrow, Solitude, when I talk to you about your other side – the bad side of your coin.

November 20 – 10 Commandments – No other gods

Read Exodus 20:1-3 and Luke 14:26-27

For the better part of the past 10 years I have been able to get a completely different perspective on Sunday morning worship.  I have been blessed to be a part of the worship band at Grace Church where I serve alongside people who are pouring their heart out in worship before the Lord.  The view I have from the stage allows me to see so many people joyfully celebrating our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I have a side job that pulls me away from church on Sundays in the fall.  For 8 or more Sundays in autumn, I work on the sidelines for the home Cleveland Browns games.  We have to be there 6 to 8 hours prior to kick off, and it always amazes me how full of tailgaters the Muni Lot is well before we arrive.  Once game time rolls around and the gates open, fans flow in to the stadium dressed in their finest orange and brown ensembles.  By kickoff the stadium is electric.  Mind you I do NOT play but I still get goosebumps from the roar of the crowd.  Over 66,000 people pack that stadium.  There are several thousand more outside to just tailgate and take in the experience.  Fans can rattle off facts about where Baker Mayfield attended high school, name all of the quarterbacks that Myles Garrett has sacked in his young career, and tell you all about the heartache of being a Browns fan.

But honestly, do people have the same knowledge and enthusiasm for God?  The first commandment tells us to have “no other gods before him”.  I am guilty of thinking that means like a wooden or bronze statue. 

However, that can mean anything that we put before God Almighty. 

It could be your family, your kids’ activities, your job, your sports teams, your favorite bands or TV shows.  It could be social media.  Is your screen time greater than your time with the Lord (in worship, in the Word, your prayer life)?

I have so many friends and family members who claim to follow Jesus tell me they don’t have time to be in the Word or to spend an hour at church on Sunday.  But do they miss the game on Friday night, Saturday or Sunday afternoon?  They can tell me all about the game but not tell me what God loves.  What He hates.  Our gods are not golden calves or wooden statues.  Our gods are anything we are giving the majority of our attention, time and energy to. 

Jesus says in Luke 14:26-27:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”  

He is saying that His followers must love Him more than they love their own family members.  Are you doing that?  What consumes your time, your thoughts and your energy?  Are you putting God first in your life or does He have to compete with someone/something else?

Nate Mills

November 4 – Miracles of Jesus – Feeding of the 5K

Read Matthew 14:13-20, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:1-15

The account of the feeding of the 5,000 is recorded in all 4 Gospels and is the only miracle of Jesus to be so recorded. The account is relatively short and objective and each version of the events sets the stage by telling how tired and exhausted the disciples and Jesus were. They were seeking a retreat from the crowds. However, they were followed by people wanting to hear more from Jesus. As the day is coming to an end, the disciples encourage Jesus to send the crowds away to find food for themselves. Jesus does the unexpected and tells them to feed the crowd.

Feed the crowd? With what? We’ve been with you all afternoon with no time to cater a meal to this huge crowd. Plus, we don’t have enough money to buy food from the villagers. You know this isn’t exactly a business area where food can be easily purchased.

Can you hear the excuses? Can you hear the desperation going on behind the scenes? This task was a daunting, if not an impossible, one.

Can’t we just let these people find their own food and we can go and find a place to rest?

How do you respond when you are given a seemingly impossible task? Do you let the circumstances overwhelm you? I know I do. I tend to focus on my abilities and my time just like the disciples did.

One of the disciples was able to round up a bit of food. Did he maybe laugh when he handed it over to Jesus, saying something like: “Here, this was the best I could do on such short notice. See, I told you so, there isn’t much food to give to these people.”

Jesus took the food (perhaps with a sly grin) and prayed to ask God’s blessing on the food. Then He began distributing it to the people. The disciples lined up and each took a basket of food to share with a group in the crowd and repeated this process until all were fed. When they were all finished eating, the disciples were able to collect 12 FULL baskets of leftovers!

It was a miracle! 

The disciples’ focus was on the here and now and the overwhelming task at hand. Jesus was concerned with the process . . .how to conquer that overwhelming task. Jesus demonstrated how to trust God with the daunting task we may face – yes, even the seemingly impossible task!

Trust God. Ask Him to intervene and then do your best. God would not ask you to do something that you can’t handle. God can use that tough task to get your attention back on Him. He will not abandon you in your time of need. He will more than supply your needs just like in the miracle of feeding 5,000 (Philippians 4:19). 

Are you facing an overwhelming task? Are you exhausted from keeping up with the day-to-day tasks of life and just can’t handle one more thing? Stop focusing on the task(s). Look to Jesus and ask for His help. Pray for a perspective change. Ask God to use you to do impossible things!

Tammy Finney

November 2 – Miracles of Jesus – Severed Ear

Read Luke 22:50-51

If I’m being honest, I might have cheered Peter on in that moment. Maybe even joined him in the revolt? If I had seen the miracles. If I had followed the call to leave all that I knew to serve Christ and be among one of His closest friends. Then a posse of government officials comes to arrest Him with a charge that would lead to execution… Yes, I would have defended my Lord. I would’ve gone down swinging.

And yet, this is wrong.

Jesus answered, “No more of this!” Christ did not (and continues to not) need a defender. He does not need justice. He IS justice. His will within this moment was beyond Peter’s (and my) own understanding.

After putting a stop to the revolt, Jesus touches the wound where the ear once was and it was healed! This wasn’t what Jesus wanted. This wasn’t the point He was trying to make.

How often do we try to take control when it’s not our job? I take so much pride in being reliable to get the job done. I enjoy the process of exceeding expectations. In a world that seems to be forgetting foundational work ethic and perseverance, I have felt a call of action to be an example (to my children, my family, my friends, my church) of a man who runs toward the giants, not away from them.

But for some of us, the hardest thing the Holy Spirit can ask us to do is “to not run”. To not charge at the opportunity set before us. It sounds so counterintuitive but, in this season, I know God is teaching me to sheath my sword. The greatest act I can currently do for Him is to learn to not “overreact”.

What made a great warhorse? A broken one. Bucking broncos are fun to watch but on a battlefield, their strength is useless. A broken horse will both stop on a dime at the slightest tug of the reins and will also run straight down the side of a cliff full force with a flicker of the heel.  With this analogy, Psalms 51:17 reaches new depth: “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”

What area of your life do you need to give over to the Lord? Is there something in your life that you’ve been fighting, but now realize, God is calling you to go straight through?

Oh, to be strong but broken for you, Lord. If you agree, let’s pray:

“Lord, I ask forgiveness for making your will fit the construct of my will. I see that my best choice is not always based upon what I do, but what I restrain myself from doing. I will not be a distraction to the kingdom. May my unbridled actions never prevent the perfect story you are telling in the lives of those around me. I take a moment right now and am willing to ask… Lord, show me the areas I am allowing my emotions to be louder than You.”

Nate Torrence

October 31 – Miracles of Jesus – Paralytic Through the Roof

Read Luke 5:17-26

“Which is easier? To say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?”

From a linguistic standpoint, it seems to be a virtual toss-up. But Jesus wasn’t talking about language skills. He was talking about truth statements. He was talking about His ability to perform what He was promising.

“Your sins are forgiven.” That was easily said, but no one was able to assess whether forgiveness had genuinely taken place. A person can mouth words like those and still hold a grudge. Besides, had the man really sinned against Him? If Jesus was God, He had. After all, all sin is against God.

So, the “forgiveness” statement? It was easy to make, hard to assess, and impossible to pull off unless Jesus is God.

“Get up and walk.” It is easy to verbalize that one. Performing healing is something else. The man was obviously unable to walk. To be sure, there was a reason for his disability; a reason that mere words from a mere mortal couldn’t deal with. To heal with words is something that would require supernatural intervention. And Christ’s ability to do it would be immediately obvious.

So, the “healing” statement? It was harder to make because it could be instantly assessed, and it would call for divine power.

Jesus healed the man! He spoke the words, and the man walked away. That healing also demonstrated His ability to fulfill the forgiveness. In reality, two miracles happened that day. A lame man walked. A sinner was forgiven. A physical reality was changed and a spiritual impediment was removed. A temporal disability was healed and an eternal destination was changed.

Which was the greater miracle? Life has trained us to prioritize the physical and the temporal, but Jesus invites us to lift our eyes to the spiritual and eternal. Have you experienced the miracle of sins forgiven because of the nail-scarred hands of Jesus? He alone can speak the words over your life, “Your sins are forgiven!” Don’t stop reveling in the amazing reality of that miracle!

Steve Kern

October 30 – Miracles of Jesus: Catch of Fish

Read Luke 5:1-11

Are you feeling defeated this morning?

I’m sorry if you are. Those who are in a season of calm, maybe take a moment to pray for your fellow devotional readers that are struggling with the burden of continual defeats. We’ve all been there. We know how deep that pit can feel.

Today we read about fishermen. How tough of a job that was and continues to be. The process is so out of their control. Faith, prayer and past experience are their sole retaliations against nature. I have had seasons where I felt like Simon-Peter did in this passage. When, time and time again I have not received the outcome I hoped for. I am downtrodden and sincerely asking:

God, where are you? Where are all the fish? DAD! …it’s going to take a miracle”.

What’s interesting about today’s Scripture is that there are 2 miracles taking place in the same moment. The first is obvious. The fish that were not there seconds ago are now breaking the nets. But the second takes a more in-depth look. It is the miracle of Simon-Peter’s choice right before the miracle. Even in pure unbelief and defeat, he lowered those nets again. That action must have been so hard to do! His Lord said to do it again, so he did. Yes, it was begrudgingly (right after the miracle Peter exclaims with guilt “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”) Some might sight this as a flaw of faith but I see it as such a supernatural accomplishment. He chose to trust beyond all he had ever been taught as a professional fisherman. In all his years he knew to lower those nets was a foolish waste of time and energy. Peter was exhausted and didn’t have the strength to believe, but he still had the strength to listen and act upon His Father’s direction:

one…more…time.

That is an awesome, miraculous moment.

I often wonder how many times God’s blessing is waiting for us but we aren’t able to make it past that last hurdle of “leaning on our own understanding”.

Your hands may be weary today. Your mind is exhausted with doubt and lack of faith. It’s OK to not understand, to even be angry at your situation. But Christ is whispering to you right now to trust Him. And my prayer (and all those who prayed in the beginning of this devotional) for you is that, you can wipe the sweat from your brow, clasp your calloused hands in prayer one more time and reply, “on the ground of your word…I will lower my nets again.”

Nate Torrence

October 29 – Miracles of Jesus: Crippled Woman

Read Luke 13:10-17

George W. Bush was president, the movie, Finding Nemo ranked number one in the box office, velour track suits were fashionable, comfy loungewear, a gallon of gas cost $1.59, and basketball legend, Michael Jordan, retired his jersey. Do you remember some of those things from 18 years ago? Eighteen years is a long time, almost two decades. We use it as a measurement from birth to adulthood.

The main character in today’s passage measured it by pain and sickness.

It’s no surprise that Luke, who was a doctor, documented so many physical details about the woman’s sickness. It’s almost like we get a glimpse into Dr. Luke’s medical chart.

Symptoms: bent over, double, unable to straighten up at all.

Cause: satanic spirit of bondage. Duration: eighteen years.

Prognosis: incurable.

Satan kept the nameless woman bent over in pain. Isn’t that just like the enemy to keep one from looking up? With a gaze fixed downward and a body contorted, she was captive to Satan’s evil schemes. She was held in a twisted sort of bondage for eighteen years until she heard the call of Jesus. Luke 13:12 tells us that Jesus saw her and called her over. Powerless to see the Savior’s face, she staggered over to meet Him and heard the word which held all power and authority, “Freed!” Her former crippled body, released from the grip of the Enemy, stood straight and firm and her eyes looked up and she glorified God!

Scientists say that even mature plants bend toward the strongest light. Satan appears as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) and in our world we can see evidence of bent, broken people. Satan’s plan is to hurl every evil missile at us to knock us down and keep us from looking upward. The Enemy’s tactic is to keep us bent over for as long as possible so that our focus is on the disease and not on the Deliverer.

However, as believers, we have been set free, enabling us to stand, straight and firm, with our eyes fixed on Jesus. Paul admonishes us three times in Ephesians 6 to stand firm. That should be every believer’s motto.

Stand firm!

If ever there was a time for believers in Christ to stand firm against the schemes of Satan, it is now. As 1 Corinthians 16:13 commands us:

“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith.”

What is the prognosis for your spirit? Are you looking down or heavenward? The only way we can stand is to bend our hearts toward Jesus, the Light of the world, the strongest Light.

Charline Englev

October 24 – I Will Remember – Do This in Remembrance of Me: The Wonder of the Lord’s Supper

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I Will Remember – YouVersion Plan

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Read Luke 22:14-23, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

One of my favorite times with the local church is when we observe the Lord’s Supper together. It is one of the most intimate, reflective, and celebratory times we have. Now I understand while some may call it communion, Holy Communion, or the Eucharist, the Lord’s supper is a sacrament (or an ordinance in some traditions) that all Christian faith traditions observe as it has been handed down to us from Christ himself. 

Go back in time to that first Lord’s Supper. Moments before Christ would be betrayed, arrested, beaten, mocked, flogged, and crucified, he gathered his disciples together for one last meal. But it wasn’t a normal meal—it was a deep, meaningful, and sacred one. 

What’s interesting about the institution of this meal is that it was replacing another deep, meaningful, and sacred meal that the Jews observed. That meal was called the Passover, a meal Jews shared to celebrate their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. 

At Jesus’ meal with his disciples, he began by breaking bread and speaking about how this was his body given for them. Following the bread was the wine. He held up the glass and described this cup as the “new covenant” in his blood—blood poured out for all people. 

As you could imagine, for Jesus’ disciples, it was a weird meal to say the least. However, it would come to make total sense with Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. It was then they realized why Jesus uttered, “Do this in remembrance of me.” As a result, they continued to observe the meal. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 11:23–25, Paul describes how the early church observed the Lord’s Supper. He explains how the practice of the Lord’s Supper proclaims “the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).

The institution of the Lord’s Supper wasn’t meant to be just a time of recalling Christ’s death. Sure, that is part of it. But as N.T. Wright suggests, “The present moment (whenever) somehow holds together the one-off past even (the Lord’s death) and the great future when God’s world will be remade under Jesus’ loving rule (until he comes).” 

Therefore, when God’s people observe the Lord’s Supper—remembering the death of Christ—there is a celebration (for what he has done), there is a consecration (for what he is doing in and through us now), and there is an anticipation (as we long for his coming when he will fully make all things new).This is the wonder of remembering Christ’s death and resurrection through the Eucharist with the saints. 

Questions for Reflection

Take a few moments to think through the implications of Christ’s death in your life. Thank him for what he has done. 

Now ask him what his death and resurrection mean for those around you.